Most journalist know that Facebook and Twitter are important tools in building community and sharing stories. I’d like to think the industry has largely moved away from the mindset exhibited by an editor to me a few years ago who walked up to my desk and said “What’s up with this whole Facebook thing? I don’t get it.”
But there’s a vast gulf between knowing something is important and knowing how to use it. Here’s a few tips for using Facebook as a journalist:
1. Use photos with your stories. Even if it’s a file photo. Photos have always pulled in readers, whether it was print, the web or mobile. Facebook is no different. According to a study on people’s Facebook habits by social media management firm Virtue, image posts received 54 percent more engagement than text only posts. That’s a huge difference. Videos received 27 percent more engagement than text posts. Photos grab our eyes and we know subconsciously when we click on them that we can look and go on our way. A text-only post requires us to invest more time. Photos rule the social media world. Use them.
2. Timing is everything. Do you pay attention to what time of day you post? You should. Do you know what day of the week people are most active on Facebook? What time of day? With such a rapidly updating news stream in most user’s feed, getting your post viewed can depend a lot upon when you are posting. According to the same study by Virtue, generally speaking Friday posts have the most engagement while weekend posts have the least. And I can tell you from personal experience that posting a story on a beautiful Saturday afternoon during the summer will pretty much flop. Either wait or post it again Sunday evening after 6 p.m. People begin migrating back at that point.
Of course, posting content every day is the best strategy, but when you do, what times will get you the best reader engagement? According to the same Virtue study, posts made before noon get 65 percent more engagement than posts made after noon. This makes sense if you consider most people’s social media habits of checking their feeds first thing in the morning and then moving onto work. But if your posting schedule follows a 9 to 5 routine, you may miss them. If they’re starting work at 8 or 9 a.m. and checking their Facebook news feed, are you already there?
3. Interact. Journalism as a broadcast, one-way medium is outdated. Page views aren’t the only goal of growing an online audience. Engaging with your audience not only can generate story ideas, it tells your audience that you are engaged. A lot of newspaper Facebook pages I see have readers making comments or asking questions of the staff. When these go unanswered, readers feel they’re not being heard and that you don’t care. Not good. Stay engaged, don’t get defensive or go on the attack, but do answer questions and inform. Be the smart, reasonable source they expect you to be.
4. Promote. Include a link to your Facebook page at the bottom of every story on your website. If your reader liked what they read, they’ll be inclined to want to like your page.
5. Don’t just post links. Facebook is great for driving traffic to your stories, but use it as a communication tool as well. Don’t be afraid to post one-sentence news items, questions or links to other sites. Links will get more likes and engagement, but showing that you’re about more than just driving traffic makes you part of the community.